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H7N9 influenza strain resistant to antivirals, but tests fail to identify resistance

Some strains of the avian H7N9 influenza that emerged in China this year have developed resistance to the only antiviral drugs available to treat the infection, but testing for antiviral resistance can give misleading results, helping hasten the spread of resistant strains. The authors of a study in mBio this week characterized viruses taken from the first person known to be stricken with H7N9 influenza and found that 35% of those viruses are resistant to oseltamivir (commercially known as Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), front line drugs used for treating H7N9 infections. However, an enzyme-based test of the strain fails to detect that resistance, so monitoring for the development of resistance using this technique would prove futile.

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